In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Digital Media and Convergence Culture

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies, Collections, and Surveys
  • Scholarly Journals
  • Trade Publications and Organizations

Cinema and Media Studies Digital Media and Convergence Culture
Ethan Tussey
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0269


“Convergence culture” is a term used to describe the ways in which digital media has changed the relationship between institutions and their patrons, governments and their citizens, and storytellers and their audiences. Digital media technologies provide interactive and networked communication that accelerates the feedback loop between these groups. Digital media did not create active and creative audiences, but this technology has amplified and enhanced activities that previously had been popular with ardent fans and subcultures with strong social ties. The proliferation of digital media corresponds with marketing and messaging strategies designed to entice people to interact with companies and organizations. These groups encourage people to seek information on their own, “join the conversation,” and “take charge” of their lives through the capabilities of digital devices. In convergence culture, the boundaries between work and leisure, professional and amateur, and artist and audience have blurred. These changes have inspired research on the potentials and limitations of interactivity, immediacy, and interconnectedness. Some work focuses on the effects of these changes on democracy, including the status of journalism, the ability to organize social movements, and the effects of Balkanization in an era of algorithms. Along similar lines, research on privacy and surveillance warns of the darker side of networked technology. Claims about the social impact of digital media build on analysis of the technological affordances of the platforms, software, hardware, and code that governs participation. Many have detailed the ways in which the technology and culture of computing is laden with ideology that shapes its uses. Arguments such as these are especially relevant to the forward-thinking work done on what is referred to as the “Internet of Things,” which theorizes what life will be like when computer chips network all objects in an attempt to organize the chaos of the world through “big data” initiatives. Research on digital media and convergence culture relies on case studies, institutional analysis, theoretical exploration, and software studies. The variety of methodological approaches and the inherent interdisciplinarity of this work speaks to the ways in which digital media has affected all corners of modern life. The enthusiasm, creativity, and rigor of the research on convergence culture demonstrate the dedication of academia to bring clarity to a world reeling from a seismic shift.

General Overviews

Foundational theories and arguments about digital media and convergence culture are discussed in this section. Comprehensive descriptions of the capabilities, affordances, and specificities of digital media are available in Bolter and Grusin 2000 and Manovich 2001. Early considerations of the relationship between old and new technologies appear in anthologies such as Everett and Caldwell 2003. Jenkins 2006 and Jenkins, et al. 2013 crystallized public understanding of the changing relationship between producers and consumers and the role of digital media in the circulation of ideas. Building on this work, Bruns 2008 provides the term “produser” to describe how identity and creative labor changes in convergence culture. Chun 2011 and Nakamura 2007 provide in-depth analysis of the implications of convergence culture on the capabilities of the technology and the identity formation they allow. Finally, Zittrain 2009 provides a useful history of the evolution of the Internet that details how the emergence of commercial logic has changed the nature of collaboration and the experience of using digital media. Together these works provide an overview of the potentials, pitfalls, and major claims that consistently appear in the field of digital media and convergence culture.

  • Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2000.

    Describes the ways in which emerging technology replicates earlier media technology through the prisms of “hypermediacy” and “immediacy.” Bolter and Grusin reveal the truly unique way that digital media replicates and enhances the abilities of its predecessors.

  • Bruns, Axel. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. Digital Formations 45. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.

    Considering a variety of sites of convergence culture, such as blogs, Wikipedia, and Second Life, Bruns argues that digital technology complicates the distinctions between consumer and producer. The case studies consider the implications of the hybrid identity “produser.”

  • Chun, Wendy. Programmed Visions: Software and Memory. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011.

    DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262015424.001.0001

    Theorizes that cycles of hype, renewal, and obsolescence around such phenomenon as flash mobs, dial-up computing, and cloud computing contribute to the cultural memory of new media that is foundational to the habits and assumptions people make about the potential of convergence culture.

  • Everett, Anna, and John T. Caldwell, eds. New Media: Theories and Practices of Digitextuality. London: Routledge, 2003.

    This early anthology provides useful concepts such as Everett’s “digitextuality” and Caldwell’s “second-shift aesthetic” that begin to map scholarly lines of inquiry in the field of convergence culture.

  • Fuller, Matthew, ed. Software Studies: A Lexicon. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008.

    The field of software studies is crucial to understanding convergence culture as collaboration, and interaction on digital media platforms is shaped significantly by the functionality and logic of interfaces. This collection is a useful introduction to the issues and areas of inquiry in software studies.

  • Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006.

    An influential work that shaped an understanding of digital media across academic disciplines, Jenkins positions digital media within long-standing discussions of audience collaboration and meaning making. Jenkins argues that digital media enhances these activities and gives rise to participatory culture in which consumers and citizens have a larger role to play in the activities of the entertainment industry and government institutions.

  • Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2013.

    The authors describe the social dynamics, traditional distributors, and networked technology that makes it possible for digital culture to spread across the Internet. Their website Spreadable Media includes essays from digital media scholars who investigate other factors about widespread digital distribution.

  • Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2001.

    This book is an essential examination of the affordances of digital media technology and their attending ideology. Manovich breaks down the specific capabilities and logics that distinguish digital media from other technologies. In addition, his interest in the art world and cinema provides a number of useful corollary theories to help clarify the specific functionality of digital media.

  • Nakamura, Lisa. Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

    The Internet seems to offer the opportunity to develop a digital persona unbound from real-life identities. Nakamura demonstrates that the division between digital persona and real-life identity is not easily severed by showing the ways in which digital interactions are informed by the realities of race, ethnicity, and gender.

  • Zittrain, Jonathan. The Future of the Internet—and How to Stop It. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

    Surveying the history of the Internet and tracking the shift from “generative” principles to the service-oriented system that favors commerce, Zittrain provides a thorough and accessible look at the factors contributing to the evolution of the Internet.

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